Saturday, December 10, 2016

Zenair CH 601 XL SLSA Zodiac, N4218: Fatal accident occurred December 10, 2016 in Marengo, McHenry County, Illinois -and- Incident occurred March 08, 2016 in Bolingbrook, Illinois

Rob Sherman:

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA W. Chicago-DuPage (NON Part 121) FSDO-03

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: CEN17FA053
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 09, 2016 in Marengo, IL
Aircraft: AIRCRAFT MFG & DESIGN LLC CH601XL SLSA, registration: N4218
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 9, 2016, about 1819, an Aircraft Mfg & Design LLC, CH601XL SLSA, N4218, impacted the terrain following a loss of control in Marengo, Illinois. The sport pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The flight originated from the Poplar Grove Airport (C77), Poplar Grove, Illinois, about 1812, with an intended destination of the Schaumburg Regional Airport (06C), Schaumburg, Illinois.

The pilot reportedly planned to fly to 06C to attend an Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) holiday party. There were no witnesses to the accident. The wreckage was discovered the following morning.

There was no communication between air traffic control and the pilot. The time of departure and the time of the accident are based on preliminary air traffic control radar data.

The airplane came to rest in a plowed cornfield on the corner of Meyers and Pleasant Grove Roads. The site was 12.6 miles southeast of C77 along the route between C77 and 06C. The majority of the wreckage was located at the main impact location. The left main landing gear was located about 190 ft southeast of main wreckage, a piece of the lower right wing skin was about 100 ft southeast of the main wreckage, and a small satchel type bag was located about 500 ft south of the main wreckage.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Rob Sherman — well-known in the Chicago area as an atheist activist who ran for Congress this year — has been identified as pilot of a small plane who died when it crashed into a field in rural Marengo over the weekend.

The wreckage of the single-engine plane was discovered off Meyer Road in Marengo by a passer-by at about 7:30 Saturday morning, and the single victim was pronounced dead at the scene less than a half hour later.

Sherman was due Friday evening to attend a holiday party at the Schaumburg airport for a local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association but never arrived, said John Tatro, past president of the group.

An FAA representative has said the plane was a Zenair Zodiac CH-601 XL.

The National Transportation Safety Board examined the wreckage at the crash site Saturday, said spokesman Keith Holloway. Because of poor weather the aircraft was taken to a nearby hangar for further examination.

As of Monday morning, authorities were still seeking to determine what caused the crash and when it occurred. The NTSB expects a preliminary report by next week.

Sherman, 63 and a longtime resident of the northwest suburbs, ran for Congress for the Green Party in Illinois' 5th District this year and was known for legal challenges in defense of separation of church and state.

The plane that crashed — a fixed-wing, light sport aircraft of a type the National Transportation Safety Board once sought to ground amid safety concerns — is sold both ready-to-fly and in kits for home builders. Authorities earlier said Sherman's plane was home-built but on Monday afternoon an NTSB spokesman said the aircraft apparently was manufactured.

Between 2006 and April 2009, there were six instances, four in the United States and two in Europe, in which a Zodiac CH-601 XL broke apart in midair, killing a total of 10 people, according to NTSB news releases from 2009.

The rash of fatal incidents led the NTSB to issue an "urgent safety recommendation" to the Federal Aviation Administration, asking the agency to ground the style of plane until the flight control issue was resolved. The FAA determined that it lacked "adequate justification to take immediate certificate action to ground the entire fleet," according to the NTSB.

Seven months later, after another Zodiac CH-601 XL broke apart in flight, killing the pilot, the FAA issued Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin strongly recommending that all owners and operators of Zodiac CH-601XL and CH-650 aircraft comply with a safety directive from the manufacturer.

The directive involved making structural modifications to the airplane and adding counter-balances. The NTBS had suspected aerodynamic flutter, a phenomena in which the airplane's control can vibrate and result in structural failure, in all of the accidents.

Manufactured planes that didn't get the safety fix were effectively prohibited from flight; the manufacturer of kit-built planes asked owners to make the same modification but it was not required, according to the NTSB.

Several friends and associates have attested to Sherman's enthusiasm for aviation.

At Poplar Grove Airport, about 17 miles from where the plane went down, Sherman operated a "builder assist center," called Rob Sherman Airplanes, where he offered use of his builder facilities and tools to those interested in building Zenith Aircraft Co. kits in exchange for a "modest fee," according to his website.

According to records, neighbors and associates, Sherman and his family had recently moved from Buffalo Grove to an airport community at Poplar Grove, where many of the homes have their own hangars with taxiways that lead to the airport's runways.

Sherman was active on the Experimental Aircraft Association's board and with its Young Eagles program at both Schaumburg airport and Chicago Executive Airport on the Prospect Heights-Wheeling border. As part of the program, he has offered youth free introductory rides in his plane.

"He was certainly passionate about aviation," Tatro said. "He loved flying, and he wanted to share it."

For decades, though, Sherman was better known as an activist and politician seeking to maintain the separation of church and state through numerous legal challenges against school districts, libraries and other state institutions.

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, Inc., said the movement has lost an asset, and the country has lost a fighter for good. Sherman was a past state director and board member of the group.

"I've known Rob for all my 20 years as an activist. He was a proud fighter for religious freedom and the separation of church and state. He was a great activist and a great person," Silverman said in an email. "I've flown with him in that very plane when he gave me a tour of Chicago. He loved that plane and loved flying it."

Sherman, who jokingly declared himself Illinois' most prominent atheist, was on the Nov. 8 ballot as a Green Party candidate for the 5th Congressional District. Though he lost the race, trailing the Democratic incumbent and the Republican challenger, Sherman's most recent campaign was his best.

He won 60 percent of the Green Party votes in the primary. Previously he tried to secure a nomination for several public offices including local library board, village clerk and twice for state representative.

Sherman ran on a platform appealing to secular voters, vowing to eliminate the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency. In a photo on his website, in an example of his often witty approach to issues, Sherman is pictured next to Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and is wearing an airbrushed T-shirt with his likeness on a penny inscribed "In Rob We Trust."

George Milkowski, 50th Ward Committeeman for the Illinois Green Party, said Sherman will be remembered as an "intensely passionate person who was not afraid" to speak his mind. Sherman, who once described himself as "175 pounds of walking, talking disbelief" in a 1993 Chicago Tribune interview, was regarded as "famous or infamous" depending on people's viewpoints, Milkowski said.

"I think a lot of people felt his belief, or I should say lack of belief, really pushed him forward," Milkowski said.

The office supply dealer turned atheist advocate sparked controversy in 1987 when he challenged the city of Zion over its seal that contained Christian symbols of a cross, dove and crown and a banner reading "God Reigns." Sherman assisted Clint Harris, a Zion resident and fellow atheist, with the litigation, which later involved Rolling Meadows as well.

His exploits and bumper-sticker candor earned him appearances on numerous talk shows including "The Oprah Winfrey Show"

In 1992, the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed the lower court ruling to stand, and the towns were ordered to drop the religious symbols. He sued Zion again in 2011 after a city commissioner used the former city seal in a newspaper ad.

Sherman's children were no strangers to his advocacy efforts and legal ventures.

In 1997, Sherman's son Richard, who was 15 at the time, sued the Boy Scouts of America for denying him membership because he refused to pledge allegiance to God.

In 2007, Sherman and his daughter Dawn, then a 14-year-old freshman at Buffalo Grove High School, sued Township High School District 214 over the state's new law mandating a moment of "silent prayer or silent reflection" at the start of classes. Two years later, a federal judge overturned the law when he ruled that it amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion intended to bring prayer into public schools.

That victory for the Shermans was short-lived, however. A federal appeals court eventually revived the matter, opining that there is no harm in silence, which could be implemented for a practical purpose in calming students at the start of classes.

Attorney Miriam "Mimi" Cooper, a longtime school board member for Arlington Heights-based District 214, has known Sherman for years as a frequent critic of board policies that he felt violated the separation of church and state.

In addition to Sherman's battles over the moment of silence, his opposition to a blessing at the end of a school choir performance prompted the board to separate the blessing from the school event, Cooper recalled.

Though Sherman was willing to stand up for unpopular causes, Cooper said, his respectful manner made it easier to consider his point of view.

Cooper said Sherman told her that he was born and raised in the Jewish faith, and he knew some Hebrew and could speak some Yiddish.

"He was dedicated to his causes, for sure," Cooper said. "Our politics were certainly not the same, but he was a very interesting man, very charming, very respectful."

According to his website, Sherman also hosted a morning drive talk show on WJJG-1530 AM where topics ranged from politics to religion to pop culture. He chronicled every show on his website.

Read more here:

A man piloting a plane that crashed in a Marengo farm field has died, authorities said.

Officials believe the only known occupant of the aircraft — the pilot — died shortly after the plane crashed into a cornfield near Meyer Road, just north of Pleasant Grove Road, said Joe Taylor, a Marengo firefighter and paramedic. Officials believe the aircraft is a small, single-engine plane, he said.

A passer-by called 911 at 7:27 a.m. to report seeing the plane crash, at 6105 Meyer Road, McHenry County Coroner Anne Majewski said in an email. The only victim, a man, was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:53 a.m., she said.

No scientific identification of the victim has been made at this time,  according to Majewski.

An autopsy will be performed Monday morning at the McHenry County coroner’s office.

A representative of the FAA said the plane is a Zenair CH 601 XL SLSA Zodiac that crashed under unknown circumstances. 

The tail number of the plane, N4218, matches the black block letters and numbers on the side of an orange plane shown in photos on Rob Sherman’s website. On the site, Sherman says he is an airplane pilot and the photo shows him in the plane, with the words Rob Sherman Airplanes written on it.

Sherman is widely known as an atheism advocate and activist and ran as a Green Party candidate earlier this year to represent the 5th Congressional District.

Sherman, who once jokingly described himself as Illinois' most prominent atheist, fought many battles in defense of separation of church and state.

Attempts by the Tribune to reach Sherman were not successful.

Paulette Bodnar lives on a horse farm across from the cornfield where the plane went down. Bodnar, who had been up since 4:30 a.m., did not hear anything unusual Saturday morning.

Then her husband, Stan, came home from doing errands and told her he spotted the flashing lights of several police cars.

When she peeked outside, she was shocked to see the mangled pile of orange metal about 1,200 feet away. The plane didn’t appear to have caught fire.

“It was a shocker to see it there and not have heard it," Bodnar said. “I have three dogs and none of them heard it. There should have been a thump. ... You’d have thought there would have been something."

Bodnar believes the aircraft possibly went down while they were out at a friend’s wedding Friday night.

“It’s horrible."


The pilot of a small plane was killed after the home-built aircraft crashed in a corn field near Marengo overnight, authorities said.

The single-engine plane belonged to longtime suburban atheist activist Rob Sherman, Federal Aviation Administration records show.

The pilot's name has not yet been released.

A passer-by called 911 at 7:27 a.m. reporting the plane wreckage in a farm field off Meyer Road, according to the McHenry County Coroner's office.

Marengo firefighters found the single victim, a man, who was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:53 a.m.

The plane, a Zenair CH 601 XL SLSA Zodiac, crashed under unknown circumstances, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators were planning to take the plane to a secure facility because of forecasts for heavy snow Saturday night, spokesman Keith Holloway said.

The crash occurred either late Friday night or early Saturday morning near Meyer Road, just north of Pleasant Grove Road, said Marengo firefighter-paramedic Joe Taylor.

The McHenry County Coroner's office will perform an autopsy on the pilot Monday morning.


CHICAGO (CBS) — The small plane that crashed in Marengo, killing the pilot, was owned by a well-known political figure from suburban Chicago.

The plane’s owner is Rob Sherman, from Poplar Grove.

He’s been a congressional candidate, national spokesman for the American Atheists and a board member of the Experimental Aircraft Association in Schaumburg, WBBM’s Mike Krauser reports.

The plane’s tail number, provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, matches the tail number on Sherman’s Zenair CH 601 XL SLSA Zodiac aircraft.

A source told WBBM that Sherman had been flying last night and never made it to an event at the Schaumburg Airport.

The wreckage, barely resembling an aircraft, was discovered this morning in a corn field in Marengo.

Crews received a call around 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning, after someone spotted wreckage around Meyer Road just north of Pleasant Grove Road.

The FAA said the pilot was the only person on board. Authorities have not identified Sherman as the pilot yet.

The NTSB says an investigator has done an initial examination of the plane and it was being moved to a secure area indoors and a team would assemble on Monday for further investigation and documentation.


Incident occurred March 08, 2016 in Bolingbrook, Illinois 

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA W. Chicago-DuPage (NON Part 121) 


Date:  09-MAR-16
Time:  04:41:00Z
Regis#:  N4218
Aircraft Make:  ZENITH
Aircraft Model:  CH601
Event Type:  Incident
Highest Injury:  None
Damage:  None
Flight Phase:  TAXI (TXI)FSDO-03
State:  Illinois

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